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It is an important. Industry to many people in our state. The process can take hours of hard work. People who are involved with it think it's a great way to spend the time. A real chance to get out enjoy the outdoors and be with people they might not have seen for a while. Sort of clear their winter cobwebs. The work includes drilling holes in the maple trees installing the taps and gathering the sap. The average yield per tap is from 5 to 15 gallons per season. However a single tap can produce as much as 40 to 80 gallons in a single year. That's a lot of SAP. When you consider that an average acre in a grove of maple trees called a sugar bush contains 40 to 70 trees and that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. The other 39 gallons of fluid which is boiled off is mostly water. For many syrup producers. The amount of work involved in the gathering and boiling process
means that they must run their operations 24 hours a day all season long. The process of making up out of collected from maple trees is history. It started as part of the culture of the North American Indian. The equipment has become more modern. The process has changed very little since it was begun. Each spring the Native Americans would move from their winter hunting grounds to the vicinity of their sugar bushes. They would gash the maple trees with a tomahawk use a wooden chip for a pails made of green birch bark to collect the sap and boil it down. The bark covered with clay and hung over an open fire or a bed of hot coals. The clay helped protect the pails from the fire and made the heat more uniform over their surface. Another method was to
pour the sap into a trough made of hollowed out logs. Then red hot rocks were dropped into the troughs to complete the boiling process. The Native Americans also found out how to separate the water from the syrup without using heat. They would allow the sap to freeze. The water would separate from the syrup and freeze on top of a container. It then could be taken away. After several seasons only the syrup or maple sugar was left. It was said that this freezing technique made the finest maple product that could be gotten. It is important to note that the Native Americans made and maple sugar. In fact in many Indian Nations it was the practice to make all the sap into sugar the sugar could be stored more easily and more readily traded in this form and all was to mix the sugar with water to turn it back into made. As the
white traders began to do business with them. The Native Americans obtained iron and copper kettles and other metal implements more efficiently. The traders learned the process and passed it on to the colonial farmers. The farmers established their own sugar bushes and began making maple syrup as a spring crop. As the farmers operations grew the production of products became a major part of their livelihoods. Many types of maple trees give off the sweet sap but the sugar maple is preferred. It produces sweeter sap and more of it than any other type of maple. It is also known to grow quickly and have a deep wide crown of branches and leaves. These are important factors in the production of the best sap the syrup producers go into their sugar bushes and cut out the undesirable trees
to allow the sugar bush to develop to its fullest sitting out much of the undergrowth encourages new Maples to establish themselves and makes it easier to work around the trees. The trees taken out of the sugar bush fall into several categories. They may be the wrong type of tree for syrup making. They may be diseased or defective. They could be old maple trees that are worn out or are blocking the development of younger ones. Or they might just be poor sap producers. Maple trees may be tapped from the time they lose their leaves in the fall to when the lease begin to appear in the spring. Generally the season is limited to a period of four to six weeks beginning the second or third week in March because sap flows better on warm days which followed frosty nights. The ideal daytime temperature ranges from 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The size of the trees important its diameter should be at least 10 inches at
4 and a half feet above the ground. That assures that the tree to be tapped is a mature one. A two or three inch deep hole is then drilled in the tree and a metal or plastic spout called the spile is driven into the hole. The whole allows the spile to enter the area of the tree called the sap wood severing the wood fibers which carry the watery SAP using the spile the sap drips from the tree. The sap flows because there is pressure inside the tree caused by the difference between the temperature inside and outside the maple. The greater the difference between the daytime and nighttime air temperatures the greater the pressure inside the tree and the more sap is gives off. The holes are always drilled in the healthy part of the maple. That's where the best SAP is. This aids in the healing process which takes place over several years and is important to the tree's continued health. The new bark grows back so that
insects and infection will not damage the tree and shorten its life. As you can see the bark of the trees a lot like our own skin which protects us from disease and infection. The building which houses the equipment for the boiling down operation is called the sugaring shack. Usually the sugaring shack can be located easily from anywhere in the sugar bush by the clouds of steam rising from the vents in the roof. This will be the hub of the maple syrup operation for the season. The sap is taken from the tree in several different ways. It can be collected by hand from buckets hung on metal spiles it can be fed through plastic spiles and pipes to a central location where it is picked up and taken to the sugarcane Shack or the plastic pipes can be extended to the shack Excelsior and the sap collected there. It is important that the tubes be set so that the SAP can flow downhill to the gathering
station or the sugarcane shack. If the forces of gravity is to aid in the gathering process some operations apply suction to their piping so that they can draw more sap from the trees and get it to a pickup point regardless of the location of the trees and the sugar bush. It is important to collect the sap every day because if it is left sitting in the collector too long it will begin to spoil and not be able to be used for making syrup. Now the boiling off process begins. This operation is carried out by using a flat pan called an evaporator. The pan is placed over a source of constant heat. The fire is quite adequate. It needs continuous tending and uses a lot of wood sometimes as much as 100 cords per season. So many operators use a gas or oil fired evaporator because it is easier to control the evaporators temperature
and it does not have to be tended all the time. The level of the sap in the pan must never be allowed to go below one inch. If it does the South will burn and destroy the batch for syrup making. Most operators now use a float system which automatically feeds the sap into the evaporator and dries the syrup off when the operation is complete. Two instruments of measurement help to determine whether the surf is ready to be drawn off. The syrup or candy thermometer is used to help control the temperature of the liquid and a hydrometer is used to measure the amount of sugar present in the syrup by measuring its neutral density. What's the proper levels are reached. The syrup is drawn off filtered and stored in large metal drums. Here it is allowed to cool for at least 12 hours. This cooling process encourages any sediments or impurities left in the syrup to
settle to the bottom of the container. When it is time to package the syrup The barrels are carefully emptied into a reheat or to repair a fire the liquid one more time and make it easier to handle. The temperature used in the reheating processes is critical because if it is allowed to get too hot the valuable service will evaporate into the air and be lost. Propane gas is used to heat the pan because it provides a more constant uniform temperature which can be more easily controlled. When the temperature of the syrup reaches two hundred and twenty six degrees it is drawn off and transferred to the filter press which takes out a sediment called sugar sand. That was in the sap when it left the tree and stay suspended in the syrup throughout the boiling and reheating stages. This final operation produces the clearest highest quality syrup possible as the syrup
jugs are filled. They are kept in packed laying on their sides. This is important for several reasons since the syrup is packed while it is still hot. It helps to sterilize the container. The jug is laid on its side to allow the sweet liquid to help seal and sterilize the cap too. It's important to control the Maybelline process very closely because the value of the syrup is based on its color and taste. The lighter more clear and sweeter the liquid is the higher its value. If the search quality drops below the for federally established color and taste grades the syrup must be used for making candy or to provide maple syrup flavoring for other food products. Many producers make much more maple syrup than they can use so they sell the rest. A producer made barter since are up for something he or she needs like help
rebuilding a roof a piece of machinery or four barrels of potatoes. Another producer might open up a roadside stand or contract with the general store. Farmer's Market. Local Food Co-op gift shop or supermarket interested in offering served to its customers. Whatever method the producer uses both parties get what they want and maple syrup sort of sells itself. Everyone likes something sweet to go with their pancakes or ice cream. Plus it's a pure product of nature. Nature is neat if we understand how to balance what we take from it and protect its health at the same time. It will continue to work for us by knowing about the maple tree and what makes it grow best. We can have a good stand of trees if we follow good Maybelline processes we can continue to harvest sap from our trees for a long time. The sugar
bush can supply wood for the boiling process or to heat a home. One could even build a home like this one from it. The networks of roads in the sugar bush can also be used for recreation like cross-country skiing and hiking. As we have seen running a profitable Sugarbush is hard work but it can be fun profitable. And very tasty.
Field Trip
Episode Number
Maple Syrup Making
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Maine Public Broadcasting Network (Lewiston, Maine)
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Series Description
"Field Trip is a series of short educational documentaries that explore Maine's history, culture, and agriculture."
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Maine Public Broadcasting
Identifier: Accession #: 1282.PC37 (NHF)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Original
Duration: 00:30:00
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Chicago: “Field Trip; 17; Maple Syrup Making,” 1983-06-17, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2023,
MLA: “Field Trip; 17; Maple Syrup Making.” 1983-06-17. Maine Public Broadcasting Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Field Trip; 17; Maple Syrup Making. Boston, MA: Maine Public Broadcasting Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from